Full Baskets, Full Hearts


In Easthampton, Mass., folks at May Institute’s Day Services program, a small but mighty community, are celebrating their harvest.

For months, these adults with a range of developmental disabilities tended a 10’ x 12’ plot of community land in the cultural district, fertilizing and tilling the soil, planting seeds, watering, and pulling the pesky weeds from among their vegetables and fruits. Their crops, tenderly sown, minded with care, and reaped with much love, have brought much pride and joy to the members. Teamwork has deepened their camaraderie. This Thanksgiving, program members are feeling grateful, thankful, blessed.

The garden flourished beautifully, yielding an abundance of staples. A bumper crop of tomatoes, and peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, Swiss chard, onions, cauliflower, and strawberries lined the beds. Flowers, with their vivid blooms gave the garden an extra special feel.

Members made nutritious salads with their pickings, and the strawberries provided a sweet but healthy snack. “It was great having the fresh produce to use during our cooking classes and to share with our group homes,” said Vincent Bator, who leads the garden project and is also a Case Manager and Instructor at the program. “What’s even better is that members got to take quite a bit home with them.”

As the spring and summer months gave way to fall, members were busy canning salsa and pickling cucumbers. The dill pickles were a favorite at the annual picnic and cookout. “This garden gave our members a sense of pride and ownership,” said Bator. “They could see their food grow. They could see progress.”

Aside from tending their allotted area, they happily gave of their time, volunteering eight hours monthly to help maintain the stretch of community land. “We had such a great experience that we have plans to expand the garden program next year,” said Bator. “We’d like to have a booth at the farmer’s market and sell some of what we reap.”

“Everyone enjoyed this project so much,” said Paula Winter, the program’s Assistant Director of Day Services. “Wheelchair accessibility enabled even those with limited movement to participate in one way or another,” she said. “This experience has truly been a labor of love.”

May Institute’s Center for Individualized Day Services in Easthampton provides services to adults with developmental disabilities throughout western Massachusetts. The emphasis of the program is to afford each person served the opportunity to achieve their greatest level of independence. Day services and activities include volunteering, social skills training, community integration, communication skills development, functional living activities and behavior management.